Case Number 22751

TOM CRUISE COLLECTION (BLU-RAY)

Top Gun
Paramount // 1986 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG
Days Of Thunder
Paramount // 1990 // 107 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Minority Report
Paramount // 2002 // 146 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Collateral
Paramount // 2004 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
War Of The Worlds
Paramount // 2005 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 17th, 2011

The Charge

Cruise Like Thunder!

Opening Statement

While I understand we can't all like the same things, the relatively recent trend of hating on Tom Cruise baffles me. I get that he acted like a tool when he nearly ruined Oprah's upholstery whilst declaring his love for Katie Holmes; I also get that some of his personal beliefs -- in particular his membership of the Church of Scientology -- come off as being somewhat odd. Still, how this translates to people unnecessarily disliking or boycotting his movies is beyond me. Plenty of actors, sportsmen, and, in particular, musicians are total douche bags, but that rarely has any effect on how much I enjoy their work. I like a good chunk of Tom Cruise's filmography, and in particular appreciate how he has often played roles that go against the general public's perception of him (Magnolia, Tropic Thunder). Also, nobody, but nobody looks better running in the movies than the Cruiser.

The release of the Tom Cruise Blu-ray Collection offers a chance to take in four of Cruise's most enjoyable films...oh, and Days of Thunder, too.

Facts of the Case

Top Gun
Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and his RIO, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards, E.R.) are sent, albeit it reluctantly, to the Top Gun program by their Commander, Tom "Stinger" Jordan (James Tolkan, Back to the Future). Once there, Maverick finds himself at loggerheads with fellow hotshot Tom "Iceman" Kazansky. The two partake in a continual bout of one-upmanship, until a personal tragedy, and a burgeoning romance with his instructor, Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis, Witness), forces Maverick to reassess his actions.

Days of Thunder
Hotheaded rookie driver Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) is taken on by a fledgling NASCAR team, to compete with the sport's very best. After an explosive start, Cole suffers a near-fatal crash, and requires the help of his doctor and love interest, Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman, The Others), to regain his confidence.

Minority Report
Washington D.C., 2054. Thanks to the PreCrime division, a law enforcement agency that uses three pre-cogs (humans capable of seeing the future), there has not been a single murder in six years. John Anderton, (Tom Cruise), who heads the department and is a big advocate of the pre-cog system, finds himself defending it when Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell, Miami Vice) is sent to audit the system prior to its nationwide launch. However, when the pre-cogs name Anderton as the killer in a murder due to take place in thirty-six hours, he must race against time to prove his innocence and find the flaws in the system he has helped uphold.

Collateral
What starts out as an ordinary night soon takes a sinister turn for LA cabbie Max (Jamie Foxx, Ray), when he picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a contract killer with several targets he plans to hit before the night is out. Vincent pays handsomely for Max's services, but leaves him under no illusions that he must do exactly as he says if he is to survive the night.

War of the Worlds
When aliens invade Earth, seemingly rising from beneath the ground to launch their attack with giant tripods, Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) races to get his children, with whom he has a fractured relationship, out of the city and to their mother. As the military mount a seemingly futile fight back, Ray attempts to build bridges with his children while coming to understand that the threats they face are not just alien.

The Evidence

A quick note: Due to the fact that each of these movies have been out for quite some time, and all did pretty well at the box office and subsequent home video releases, there will be some spoilers below, particularly with regard to Minority Report.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Top Gun is almost certainly the world's first, and biggest gay blockbuster of all time. The film is so in your face about its sexuality that it is little surprise people failed to spot it on its theatrical release, but it's there, hiding in plain sight. Just check out that volleyball scene, and then there are lines like, "You can be my wingman any time" (not to mention a commander's loud demand that "I want some butts!") which barely conceal the thinly veiled homoerotic subtext littered throughout the movie. If further proof were needed, consider that Maverick (Cruise) doesn't make his move on Kelly McGillis's Charlie until she is dressed like one of his fellow pilots, complete with cap to hide her feminine locks. However, what has perhaps been forgotten in recent years, is that Top Gun is one of the very best examples of action cinema, ever. It is, frankly, awesome.

Yes, it is true that the movie is pure trash, and littered with more cheese than the floor of a cheap burger outlet, but damn if it isn't exhilarating cinema. In many way, Top Gun is the quintessential Tom Cruise movie, setting him up as the damaged hero in waiting, ready to give those pesky Russian pilots a missile up the tailpipe at the drop of a hat. Sure, he risks starting World War III every time he takes off, but at least he looks good doing it.

Top Gun ticks all the boxes for an action movie. Exciting action set pieces? Check. Cocky yet sensitive hero? Check. Abrasive superior looking to knock our hero down a peg or two? Check. A love interest that doesn't detract too much from the action? Check. Quotable dialogue? Oh, hell yeah! This movie is up there with Swingers and Predator for cool quips that can be slipped into general conversation with relative ease.

Does Top Gun have any failings? Certainly. The Russian MiG pilots that infrequently enter U.S. airspace feel tacked on, and, in these post-Cold War times, date the movie more so than the Kenny Loggins tunes that dominate the (awesome) soundtrack. Rather than detracting from the experience, these faults somehow make the film all the more endearing. The cast is clearly having a blast, and Tony Scott's direction infuses the film with a real energy that never lets up.

Top Gun is presented with a 1.85:1 1080p transfer that, considering the film's age, impresses. Colors are excellent, as are detail levels, ensuring Tony Scott's distinctive style is well represented on Blu-ray. The soundtrack positively booms from the speakers, while dialogue remains clear.

The supplemental materials kick off with a group audio commentary, which includes contributions from director Tony Scott and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer. "Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun" is a six-part documentary, which clocks in at just over two hours. Not quite as impressive is the "Multi-Angle Storyboard." "Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun" takes a look at the real training center that inspired the movie, while the "Vintage Gallery" features music videos, TV spots, and interviews.

Following their earlier success, Tony Scott joined up with Cruise once more for 1990's Days of Thunder, AKA "Top Gun on Wheels." Though an undeniably entertaining film, Days of Thunder is definitely the runt of this particular litter, feeling too contrived to recapture the spark of Top Gun.

The screenplay is formulaic in the extreme, often coming across like an amalgamation of Cruise's earlier works, but works thanks to the star power the film is packing. Robert Duvall (The Godfather) has had better roles -- much better roles -- yet still delivers an enthusiastic turn as Cruise's mentor. At this point in his career, Cruise was still playing much the same role that made his name, that being the cocky hotshot out to prove just how great he is. Take a little Maverick from Top Gun and a pinch of Vincent Lauria from The Color of Money, and you pretty much have Cole Trickle. Which reminds me, the names in this movie must surely rank amongst the greatest outside of the porn industry. Alongside the already mentioned Mr. Trickle, we have Buck Bretherton (John C. Reilly, Boogie Nights), Harlem Hoogerhyde (Chris Ellis), and my personal favorite, Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer).

With its fast paced dialogue and an opening act that rarely lets up (and features plenty of racing action), Days of Thunder packs in plenty of testosterone for action junkies right up until Nicole Kidman enters the scene as the totally unnecessary love interest. I appreciate that the film couldn't keep up such an unrelenting pace, but the moment Cole suffers his near-fatal car crash, the film nearly flatlines. Of course, this is all part of Cole's journey toward humility; just as Maverick had to lose Goose to become a better person, so too must Cole (temporarily) lose his sight amongst other things to become a better man.

More so than Top Gun, a film whose shadow it will forever be in, Days of Thunder is lightweight Cruise. Though fun, it pales in comparison to the rest of this set.

Though far from exemplary, the 1080p transfer of Days of Thunder offers a solid representation of the film. There are instances of heavy grain, and occasional softness, but overall the picture remains sharp with a good level of detail. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack fares a fair bit better. Race scenes in particular impressive with the roar of the engines and cheers from the crowd being crystal clear throughout. Absolutely no extras are included with Days of Thunder.

Minority Report blends the serious Cruise (think The Last Samurai), with the action roles he is probably most synonymous with to almost great effect. I say almost great, as, due to a few niggles, Minority Report never quite hits the heights one would hope for from this Spielberg/Cruise collaboration. That said, it's still an entertaining thriller, blending sci-fi, action, and noir.

In fact, on initial viewing, Minority Report proves so entertaining that the major -- so big you could fly a freakin' 747 through them -- plot holes don't even register. But subsequent viewings reveal Minority Report to be riddled with more holes than my lucky underpants. First off all, the much-vaunted pre-cogs don't work. At least, not in the way they are supposed to. If they really were predicting the future, the pre-cogs would surely see the PreCrime unit arresting the would-be-killer, rather than visions of a murder that won't actually take place due to their own intervention. Crucially, the system also fails to differentiate between murder and suicide. These leads nicely on to the second plot hole. The villain of the piece -- Max von Sydow's Lamar Burgess -- beats the system (temporarily at least) by committing a murder in the exact same way as a previous case, the idea being that the pre-cogs vision will be disregarded as an echo -- something the film goes to great pains to make us understand. However, what isn't explained is why no wooden ball is created with Lamar's name on it, as is the case with every other murder.

The film also suffers a few lapses in logic, in particular with regard to the actions of Anderton once he is named as the killer in a murder that is yet to take place. Anderton, being head of the PreCrime unit, is aware of both the exact time and location of the murder, yet still insists on being there to see who is setting him up. Surely a wiser plan would have been to get out of town, sit in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and wait until your innocence is proved?

Still, Minority Report is that rare beast: a big Hollywood movie with both brains and brawn. The special effects, thanks in part to the film's muted color palette, still stand up exceptionally well, and ensure the numerous action scenes maintain their ability to thrill audiences. The spider sequence is as tension-filled as ever (and provides a chilling vision of the future), while the extended chase sequence that begins when Anderton makes his escape from PreCrime headquarters offers up a breathless 15 minutes of visceral thrills. However, it is the ideas behind the film, specifically its examination of free will, that really hold one's interest.

Colin Farrell delivers one of his better performances as Danny Witwer, the government agent sent to investigate PreCrime before it goes nationwide. Farrell plays the role in such a way as to keep the viewer guessing as to his true intentions: Is he out to screw Anderton (and in turn PreCrime), or is he the good guy he purports to be? Cruise himself is at the top of his game. Anderton is a complex character, and, more than his drug addiction that goes someway to making us question his innocence, it is his realization that the system he helped create is flawed that makes his journey so engaging.

Thanks to its highly stylized look, Minority Report is not a film that immediately lends itself to a hi-def upgrade; the deliberately muted colors, and sterile look meaning that it doesn't make for great demo material. In terms of replicating the exact look Spielberg was after, the 2.40:1 1080p transfer is a triumph. Likewise, the 5.1 soundtrack offers a good upgrade over the DVD release.

Offering up Disc One of the previous two-disc set, Minority Report features no extras.

Whereas Days Of Thunder stands out due to its (comparative) lack of quality, Collateral stands out for being the rare occasion where Cruise plays the bad guy. Sure, Vincent is charismatic, suave, and amiable -- at least, if you're not on his hit list -- but Collateral is never shy of reminding us that he is a cold-blooded killer. Cruise's portrayal of Vincent sees the actor play off his usual good guy roles, using the aforementioned attributes (normally the cornerstone if his heroic image) to disguise his true character which is revealed him to be methodical, brutally efficient, manipulative, and, evidently, remorseless.

Much of director Michael Mann's focus is on the interplay between Vincent and Foxx's Max, which is more than matched by Stuart Beattie's (30 Days of Night) screenplay that revels in the verbal sparring the two men partake in. The film's dialogue is sharp, highly quotable, and more importantly stays true to the characters, and both leads clearly revel in being offered such meaty roles. Despite being a dialogue-heavy film, Collateral is packed with wall-to-wall tension.

Collateral never misses a beat, even when it moves towards a more standard action-thriller structure during the final act. Action scenes are, in general, brief yet full of impact. The shootout in the nightclub is exceptional, with the camera keeping tight on the action, and thus getting the viewer right in on the violence. The nightclub scene also serves to best exemplify the diverse soundtrack employed during the film. Nearly every scene has its own distinct score, incorporating everything from Paul Oakenfold to Miles Davis, by way of Audioslave to cement the movie's tone perfectly.

There are negatives to be found, or rather a couple of coincidences that stand out: The way in which Mark Ruffalo's Detective Fanning is clued into Max's involvement is just a little too convenient, while the way Jada Pinkett Smith's Annie -- who features so memorably during the film's opening -- is brought back into the story in such a pivotal way feels forced. Having been so sharp up to this point, the screenplay falters when trying to bring the film to a head, offering such an unlikely occurrence that it feels contrived. Still, by the time these problems manifest themselves, most viewers -- myself included -- will be too invested in the film to notice.

The 2.40:1 1080P transfer is excellent, and a marked improvement over the already impressive DVD release. There is a fair amount of digital noise -- due to the low light and use of HD cameras -- but detail levels are high, and colors natural. The nightclub scene best exemplifies the enhancement over the DVD. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 soundtrack also improves on its DVD brethren, as the dynamic mix really gets a chance to shine.

The special features begin with director Michael Mann's audio commentary, which is accompanied by the "City of Night" featurette, offering a 40-minute making of. There is also a selection of deleted scenes included, with optional commentary, as well as rehearsal footage, visual FX featurettes, and trailers.

Second to Top Gun, War of the Worlds is the most crowd-friendly film in the set, despite it maintaining a somewhat somber tone throughout. Like Minority Report, War of the Worlds sees Cruise and Spielberg in more serious sci-fi mode, but offers a much more rounded experience and has some of the most exciting action set pieces this century.

Coming only a few short years after the atrocities of 9/11, the scenes of mass devastation and panic throughout War of the Worlds hit home harder than they otherwise might have. The sequence where a hysterical Rachel (Dakota Fanning) asks "Is it terrorists?" sees the film actively acknowledge the parallels it draws to the attacks on the United States. Indeed, the way in which the enemy reveals itself (effectively attacking from within) is not dissimilar to the current terrorist threat where long-dormant sleeper cells are activated. Coupled with some harrowing imagery (which includes a crashed jetliner), this ensures War of the Worlds resonates with the viewer and proves to be much more than a disposable popcorn flick.

The introduction of the Ferrier family to H.G. Wells' story helps the viewer invest on a more personal level with the events unfolding onscreen, and is very much in keeping with Spielberg's previous work as Tom Cruise's deadbeat dad, Ray Ferrier, is forced to step up and take responsibility for his children's well-being. The tensions within the family, while not wholly necessary to the plot, ensures a constantly shifting dynamic as Ray, and his children, Rachel and Robbie, go from tearing strips off of each other to desperately fighting to save one another when the chips look to be down. It's very easy for the viewer to empathize with their plight. Although the full effect of the theatrical presentation is inevitably lost in the transition to home video, War of the Worlds is still an exhilarating experience.

It is, therefore, sad, but inevitable, that the finale of War of the Worlds comes in for so much stick, but I'm afraid it is a major failing, and still doesn't sit right with me despite having seen the film several times since its theatrical release. Firstly, I have no problem with the way in which the alien menace is finally defeated; it stays true to H.G. Wells' source material and is just as likely -- if not more so -- than a military led victory. No, what really sticks in the craw is the survival of Justin Chatwin's Robbie, which robs one of the best scenes in the film of any weight. Having effectively taken a crash course in parenting for most of the movie, Ray is suddenly confronted with the moment when he must allow his son to make his own way in the world. Despite not understanding the choices he makes, Ray is able to understand Robbie's mind is made up ("I have to see this, Dad. You have to let me go. I want to fight. Please! I have to see this. Just let me go!"). It is significant for the fact that Robbie refers to Ray as his Dad without being told to -- a first in the movie -- and for it being the moment where Ray finally grasps the responsibility parenthood brings. The impulsiveness he sees in Robbie reminds Ray of himself, and he desperately wants to protect his son from the mistakes he himself has made. The fact that Robbie's actions then lead to his immediate death (or so it would seem) is truly shocking for the viewer, and seems to reveal War of the Worlds as a much darker blockbuster than we might have been prepared for. Suddenly, anything seems possible. Thus, when Robbie turns up, apparently unscathed, during the film's final moments, it is hard not to see it as a total copout, as it goes against the grain of what the rest of the film has done. This seemingly uncontrollable need to have a happy ending (at least in his more fantastical films) is one of my biggest gripes with Spielberg's work, especially in the case of War of the Worlds, as it simply doesn't ring true.

The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is another winner, despite (like Minority Report) not necessarily being demo material due to the visual style employed by Spielberg. This is a dark, often gloomy looking picture and often featuring heavy grain. Still, the picture offers an excellent representation of the theatrical release, with exceptional detail, even during the frequent night scenes. The DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is perhaps even better. War of the Worlds sounded excellent on DVD, and the upgrade to Blu-ray sees the film come as close as is possible to truly capturing the theatrical experience. The thunderstorm towards the start of the film really has impact now, while the drone of the tripods is more ominous than ever.

Extras kick off with "Revisiting the Invasion" which has the cast and crew discussing the sci-fi genre. "The H.G. Wells Legacy" sees the writer's family discussing his work. "Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds" compares the Spielberg's 2005 movie to the 1953 version. "Characters: The Family Unit" takes a look at the dysfunctional Ferrier family. "Previsualization" shows some of the design work that took place prior to shooting. "Production Diaries" offers a much more involved look at the making of the film, and, clocking in at 90 minutes, is by far the longest featurette included. "Designing the Enemy" is, as the title suggests, a look at the design work of the aliens. "Scoring War of the Worlds" features an interview with composer John Williams. "We Are Not Alone" has Spielberg discuss his previous work involving aliens in the movies, whilst "Galleries" features production stills and various artworks. Finally, the film's teaser trailer is included.

Closing Statement

Whether you're a fan of Cruise or not, the Tom Cruise Blu-ray Collection offers up an excellent and diverse selection of movies that gives a good representation of the actor's work, and comes highly recommended.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2011 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Top Gun
Video: 85
Audio: 88
Extras: 70
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Top Gun
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* DTS HD 6.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Top Gun
* Commentary
* Featurettes

Scales of Justice, Days Of Thunder
Video: 80
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 82
Story: 70
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile, Days Of Thunder
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Days Of Thunder
* None

Scales of Justice, Minority Report
Video: 94
Audio: 93
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 88
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Minority Report
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 146 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Minority Report
* None

Scales of Justice, Collateral
Video: 94
Audio: 95
Extras: 80
Acting: 93
Story: 90
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, Collateral
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Collateral
* Commentary
* Featurettes

Scales of Justice, War Of The Worlds
Video: 96
Audio: 98
Extras: 82
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, War Of The Worlds
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, War Of The Worlds
* Featurettes
* Trailer

Accomplices
* IMDb: Top Gun
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0092099/combined

* IMDb: Days of Thunder
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0099371/combined

* IMDb: Minority Report
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/combined

* IMDb: Collateral
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0369339/combined

* IMDb: War of the Worlds
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0407304/combined